Retail sales rose 1.2% in July and reached pre-pandemic levels. Within hours, Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) said it would keep 4,000 of its 4,700 stores open until 10 p.m. The closing time at most stores had been 8:30. The retails sales and Walmart announcement were a coincidence. However, Walmart would not have made the decision without more demand. As the largest retailer in America, by far, the plan has to be very good news.
As a side note, Walmart made a change to when seniors can shop. They will get an hour, on their own, every Tuesday. Walmart also extended the time its pharmacies will be open.
Two things happened when the pandemic hit hard. Retailers shuttered stores and Amazon.com took even more of their business, which continued a two-decade trend. There was a concern among traditional retailers that the consumer “all Amazon all the time” trend would be permanent. The Walmart decision should put some of that to rest.
Walmart remains the miracle of big-box retail. It has a large online presence, which is by many measures just behind Amazon’s. It swung to curbside delivery. Anecdotally, 90% of Americans live within 20 miles of a Walmart. It also has a broader line of merchandise, and it has grocery sales that match Kroger’s.
The Walmart decision is important for a strategic reason. Target already has stores that are open until 10 p.m. That left open the possibility Walmart could lose business late in the day.
Walmart, which like most companies has pulled its financial guidance due to the spread of COVID-19, could see an impressive rebound in is third-quarter earnings. The extension of open hours points to that conclusion. That leaves the only substantial risk to the rebound another wave of the coronavirus, which is still in the first wave in large states like Florida, Texas and California.
Walmart will be open until 10 p.m. now in most locations. That is welcome news for retailers and the broader economy.